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Olympic Torch Arrives Back From Outer Space

Image: Roscosmos/Luc van den Abeelen, Michail Tyurin
The Moscow Aviation Institute celebrated the Olympic Torch’s trip to space. Image: Roscosmos/Luc van den Abeelen, Michail Tyurin

The Olympic torch has been to outer space and back.

The torch has even been on a spacewalk. It’s the first time that has ever happened.

The torch will be used to light the flame that will launch the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, hosted by Russia.

On Nov. 7, a spacecraft called the Soyuz TMA-11M left Russia carrying three crew members and the Olympic torch. It was bound for the International Space Station (ISS), which is in orbit around the Earth.

Two Russian cosmonauts on the ISS received the torch. Later, they brought it outside and symbolically handed it off to each other in open space. The hand-off took about an hour.

The torch was not lit, because combustion is not possible in space and flames are not allowed on board the ISS.

The flight to space is just one stop of many for the Olympic torch.

On Oct. 7, a torch relay began in Sochi, Russia. The torch has been handed off in a “relay” from one person to another throughout Russia.

It is the longest torch relay in Olympic history, covering more than 65,000 kilometres, not even including its side-trip to outer space.

The torch has travelled by car, train, plane, Russian troika , reindeer sleigh and now space shuttle.

It is an honour to be asked to carry the torch during the relay. Typically, the Olympic host country chooses former athletes, celebrities and people who have done something special or meaningful to carry the torch.

In Russia, for instance, the torch has been carried by Russian snowboarder Anton Belyaev, gymnast Valentina Shavilova and swimmer Anton Panferov.

However, it has also been carried by “teacher of the year” Yury Kazetov and, in one town known for its gold mining, miner Nikolay Derezhenets. Derezhenets also carried some gold nuggets during his leg of the relay.

On Feb. 7, the torch will light a cauldron in Fisht Olympic Stadium, marking the start of the XXII Olympic Winter Games.

The 2014 Winter Olympics run from Feb. 7 to 23. The 2014 Paralympic Winter Games run from March 7 to 16.

Related links

Here is the official website of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

Read about the Olympic torch relay that took place in London, England in 2012 (TKN article).

Some of the Sochi gold medals will contain space rocks (TKN article).

By Jonathan TIlly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
The Olympic torch has been to many exciting and unexpected places. What different and interesting new places would you like to see the torch taken to? Draw a picture of the scene you’ve described to go with your text.

Reading Prompt: Extending Understanding
On June 27, 2012, reported a story entitled, “iPhone App Helps Blind Olympic Torchbearer.” Read this article and create a T-Chart listing the similarities and differences between these two fascinating stories.

Extend understanding of texts by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Extend understanding of texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts, by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Grammar Feature: Foreign Language
The word “troika” is mentioned in the story, above, but not explained. We are given a clue that it’s an unusual word, because it’s in italics (slanted letters). But there’s no explanation given for it.

What language do you think the word troika comes from? Why do you think that?

What in the article gives you a clue as to what a troika might be?

What do you think “troika” means?

Look up troika in Wikipedia, here:

Surprise! It has many meanings. Choose the one you think is meant in the story and explain why you chose that one.

How did your definition of troika change before and after you read the Wikipedia article about it?